Hello from Phoenix, the self-driving capital of America! After today I'm taking some time off to explore Arizona, so I'll be back in your inbox in two weeks.
Today's newsletter is 1,742 words, a 7-minute read. Let's dive in....
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Many cities are experimenting with innovative transportation ideas like scooters or autonomous shuttles, but their efforts are often too isolated or too small to deliver meaningful results, according to transportation experts.
Why it matters: Moving people and goods more efficiently is an urgent priority for many cities, which are grappling with issues like congestion, air pollution and accessibility while trying to raise money for necessary upgrades.
The big picture: About 4 billion people live in urban areas today, and by 2050, cities will be home to two-thirds of the world’s population.
What's needed: To adapt quickly to these changing demographics, cities should adopt a bird's-eye view of their mobility landscape — treating it as a system of systems — rather than continuing to experiment with small-scale pilots, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum and Deloitte.
Urban transportation, like politics, is local. What works in one city doesn't necessarily work in another.
Yes, but: Most innovations in transportation are based on technology to improve an individual's journey, rather than offer a systemic solution.
Where it stands: As the case studies show, pioneering cities are beginning to think more strategically, says Scott Corwin, leader of the global future of mobility practice at Deloitte.
What to watch: The mayor of Paris wants to create a "15-minute city" — a collection of mostly car-free neighborhoods where residents can get to work, home or anywhere else within 15 minutes.
Waymo's self-driving minivans. Photo: Courtesy of Waymo
This week during several automated driving demonstrations in Arizona I was reminded why we should all hope self-driving technology is ready soon.
Why it matters: Self-driving cars don't get drunk, tired, distracted — or do things that are just plain stupid — behaviors I saw in spades on the roads in and around Phoenix and Tuscon.
Details: Not five minutes into a Waymo One ride (with a backup safety driver) in Chandler, a driver blasted through a red light and T-boned another car just ahead of me.
Road rage is a different problem, for which there might not be a solution until all cars are driven by robots.
Driving the news: A disgruntled former Waymo safety driver was arrested this week and charged with aggravated assault and reckless driving for allegedly trying to cause a crash with Waymo vehicles.
One reassuring incident: A bicyclist told me in a Tweet message about a near-miss he had with an unoccupied driverless Waymo vehicle. He thought the vehicle making a left turn was going to strike him as he rode through the intersection.
The bottom line: 36,560 people died in highway accidents in 2018. The vast majority of those accidents were caused by human behavior.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Lawmakers working to speed a federal framework for autonomous vehicles into law face a key obstacle that stymied previous attempts: who gets sued in collisions.
Driving the news: A House panel this week heard testimony from safety advocates and industry groups trying to shape laws that would govern the adoption of self-driving cars on U.S. roads.
Context: Previous attempts to pass self-driving legislation stalled in 2018 and 2019 as lawmakers clashed over what consumer and legal protections should be included.
What they're saying: The latest effort faces tough odds to win approval before the end of 2020, according to Reuters.
Go deeper: Self-driving vehicle law hits a speed bump
Canoo's electric skateboard will be the basis for future Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Photo: Courtesy of Canoo
Hyundai and Kia announced this week that they will develop future vehicles using electric skateboard technology developed by startup Canoo.
Why it matters: It's the first big partnership for Canoo, a 2-year-old EV company founded by former BMW executives who fled Faraday Future.
The big picture: Big automakers like GM, as well as startups like Rivian and Arrival, are developing flexible electric skateboard architectures that can be used for everything from compact cars to delivery trucks.
Of note: The deal with Canoo is also the latest in a string of interesting moves by Hyundai, which plans to invest $52.7 billion in R&D and future mobility by 2025.
Jettison: Bombardier Speeds Dismemberment with A220 Deal, Other Talks (Sandrine Rastello and Paula Sambo — Bloomberg)
Fuel cell power: Tesla Cybertruck gets new electric rival: Meet Nikola's hydrogen Badger pickup (Alan Ohnsman — Forbes)
Outlook: Uber sees profit by end of 2020, but still expects full-year loss (Tina Bellon and Munsif Vengattil — Reuters)
2020 Hyundai Sonata. Photo: Courtesy of Hyundai
This week I'm driving the 2020 Hyundai Sonata, a car that purports to park itself.
Reality check: The heavily advertised "Smaht Pahk" feature has limited capability. Sure, it can pull itself head-on into a tight parking space and back out too, but that's about it.
How it works: A driver outside the vehicle uses the key fob to lock the car, hit the remote start button (although the car is already running), then hit a third button to drive forward into the parking space.
For the record: Tesla's Summon self-parking feature allows users to push a button and the car will back itself out of the space and come to the driver.
My thought bubble: Hyundai's Remote Smart Parking Assist technology would be useful in an urban parking garage or at my neighborhood Kroger, where the spaces are especially tight and it's easy to get blocked in.
The bottom line: The sensors that enable Hyundai's driver-assistance features are already on the car. Why not put them to work as parking valets too?